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Entries in Cinematography (268)

Friday
Oct282016

Oscar Horrors: The Uninvited

Boo! It's "Oscar Horrors". Each evening we look back on a horror-connected nomination until Halloween. Here's Tim Brayton on a '40s ghost story...

The Uninvited (1944)  is a rarity among 1940s horror films twice over. For one thing, it's one of the vanishingly tiny number of genre films from that decade to receive Oscar attention, nabbing a Best Cinematography nomination – which is why we're here now, of course. For the other, it's one of the almost-as-tiny number of American horror films of its generation that actually commits to the paranormal. For years, stretching back into the 1930s, almost any time you saw a Hollywood film set in a haunted house, it was an easy bet that by the end of the last reel, you'd find out it was just an elaborate ruse by jewel thieves or some other damn thing. Not so for The Uninvited! Its ghost is real, and presents a genuine danger.

The film's readiness to tell an old-fashioned ghost story without apology or restraint is undoubtedly connected to the recognition given to Charles Lang's deeply shadow-soaked cinematography. 

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Wednesday
Oct262016

Oscar Horrors: "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?"

Boo! It's "Oscar Horrors". Each evening 'til Halloween we look back on a horror-connected Oscar nomination. Here's David on the cinematography of a camp classic...

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is hardly remembered as a horror classic; its camp reputation precedes it, as its recent appearance on RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars attests. (Only the finest for that crop of drag queens!) While the film is not what we might traditionally think of as a horror film, it has the same elements of lost souls, grotesque faces and physical cruelty that you might expect from any product of the genre. Just one year after Alfred Hitchcock changed the genre forever with Psycho, Baby Jane features a close-up of Joan Crawford’s face mushed against the floor - an eerie recall of Janet Leigh’s glassy-eyed demise.

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Friday
Oct212016

Middleburg Day 1: "Lion" is a winner

By Nathaniel R

Sheila Johnson welcomes you!Salamander

Middleburg Film Festival, now in its fourth year and just an hour outside of Washington DC, is a rising festival to watch. Most of the festival's big events take place at the Salamander Resort and Spa which sits on 340 beautiful acres. The rooms are gorgeous -- I even have a nice little terrace to sit on while typing up these diaries for you. In short, this is a destination festival rather than a 'drop in for a film or two or two after work' type big city festival. Emma Stone and Damien Chazelle are coming into town for La La Land and other luminaries appear for their films, too.

The festival, which has an Oscar hopeful heavy lineup, was founded by the African-American billionaire Sheila Johnson (co-founder of BET network) who welcomed us to the opening night screening. The event was in the resort's huge ballroom and I was surprised to be very happy and pleased with the screen size and sound since non-traditional venues at regional festivals can sometimes present challenges.


 The opening night film was the lost child / adoption drama Lion. True to early buzz we've heard the movie is quite wonderful...

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Sunday
Oct092016

George Sidney Centennial: "The Three Musketeers"

by Nathaniel R

After looking at three popular musicals Anchors Aweigh (1945), Kiss Me Kate (1953), and Bye Bye Birdie (1963), in our mini George Sidney Centennial celebration, we're closing up with his other primary mode: the adventure flick. Curiously those films also feel like musicals even when they aren't. Case in point is The Three Musketeers (1948) and the subliminal feeling that at any moment a song and dance number might break out. That's not only because glorious Gene Kelly is the star. This feeling radiates outward from the ebullient movement of all of the swordsmen. It's also firmly embedded in the swooning romantic overtures that happen instantaneously between Gene Kelly and each of the women. Lana Turner is the devilish Lady de Winter and June Allyson is the saintly Constance and, in case you're wondering, no one will ever accuse this movie of subtlety or evolved gender politics. Still the love scenes are memorable for their queer duet of completely earnest and purposefully comic registers.

While The Three Musketeers, MGM's second biggest hit of the entire decade, never abandons its swashbuckler adventure commitments to make room for the theoretical song and dance number, it does make quite a few overtures to other identities. This treatment of the Alexander Dumas story is also a romantic comedy, a slapstick farce, and even a stylized melodrama...

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Saturday
Sep172016

TIFF: Strange Weather and Handsome Devil

Nathaniel R reporting from the Toronto International Film Festival

Despite the buzz from festivals usually circling around pre-sold films and major Oscar hopefuls, there are always minor gems to be found amongst the clutter which are still seeking distribution. Here are two I hope get picked up, a very accessible Irish boarding school drama (without the benefit of any big name to sell it) and an American indie starring Oscar winner Holly Hunter.

Strange Weather
(Dir. Katherine Dieckmann, US)
Take a look at that still above. Now look way to your out of focus far right. See the girl in pink tank and jean shorts? That's Carrie Coon (Gone Girl, The Leftovers), one of the best actresses working who is still not a household name or an Emmy or Oscar nominee! But, yes, movie still providers to festival guides, Holly Hunter is the draw here. She plays Darcy Baylor, a bohemian mother of meager means (a Holly specialty - see also Thirteen) who lost her only child to suicide years before the film begins. She has never quite been the same and her fierce best friend (Carrie Coon), her best friend's girlfriend (Andrene Ward-Hammond who is also in Loving this year) and her ex-boyfriend (a soulful Kim Coates from Sons of Anarchy) are concerned about her all over again when a couple of chance encounters reveal something she didn't know about the day he died. Though the plot can be (okay is) convoluted, the writing is otherwise strong with well defined characters, great conversations (it's partially a road trip movie), and a ineffable central arc that Holly Hunter has no trouble selling because she is Holly Hunter and goddamnit we don't appreciate her enough. Though there are a couple of bumpy patches in this road with wonky cuts, shots, and transitions -- perhaps budget trouble? -- and that aforementioned convoluted story might be difficult if you're not into the actresses. But if you aren't, your loss! I could have watched these characters/actors for another hour. I'll take a spinoff series with Carrie and her lesbian lover please! B/B- 

Handsome Devil 
(Dir. John Butler, Ireland)
This Irish boarding school drama about a redhead student who cares nothing for sports at a rugby-mad school is sweet goodhearted fun. It risks being a little 'This is a Teen Movie!' annoying and unrealistic in its construction (complete with occasionally snarky narration) but the friendship at its center between music-loving Ned (Fionn O'Shea) and strong and silent rugby star Conor (Nicholas Galitzine) is really well done and fills up the heart of this accessible mainstream charmer about "otherness." The undervalued / always terrific Andrew Scott (Pride) plays the gay teacher who encourages Ned & Conor in their odd couple friendship and their off-sport pursuits. You know we've come a long way when a movie with a rather large LGBT element is not even listed with a key word of LGBT in the festival guide! (Director John Butler made one previous feature called The Bachelor Weekend which we reviewed a couple of years ago which also starred Andrew Scott. He's made a leap forward with this second feature.)  B